The Return of Hops

From our friends at the Rural Blog:

Production of hops, an essential ingredient in beer, was driven out of the Eastern U.S. by mold in the 1920s, but a new North Carolina project is looking to see if farmers could once again make it a viable crop.

"N.C. State University researchers in Raleigh and a handful of farmers in the mountains are growing experimental plots of hops, the cone-shaped flower clusters that brewers add to beer for bitterness, aroma and as a natural preservative," Jay Price of the Charlotte Observer reports. The researchers received a $28,000 from the Golden LEAF Foundation, which uses earnings from North Carolina's tobacco-settlement money to finance projects aimed at developing rural economies.

Most domestic hop production now comes from arid parts of the Pacific Northwest, Price reports, but several farmers in western North Carolina began planting the crop due to a rise in hops prices several years ago and are expecting to reap their first significant harvest this year. "We'd be interested in about as much as we could get our hands on," Brooks Hamaker of Durham brewery Fullsteam said. Fullsteam plans to emphasize locally grown ingredients such as sweet potatoes, scuppernong grapes and persimmons.

"It's unbelievable how much interest this has generated," said Black Mountain farmer Van Burnette, who has planted a plot of about a fifth of an acre. "I've had more than 100 people here on one tour alone, and I get calls all the time from people who are thinking about growing it." Burnette explained if the crop is successful there is a plentiful local market for farmers with nearly 150 breweries within 200 miles of his farm.

The full article is available here through the Charlotte Observer.

Kristin Tracz

About Kristin Tracz

Kristin Tracz served MACED’s Research and Policy team from 2009-2012 working on clean energy policy, energy efficiency programs and the Appalachian Transition Initiative. She joined MACED after finishing her Master of Environmental Management degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She now lives and works in Washington, DC.